The high stakes and high-powered action of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series makes the first of its two annual stops in Las Vegas, March 31-April 2, for the 18th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The early-season race comes at an important time, with teams and drivers ready to deliver high-intensity competition in their 10,000-horsepower machines. With Vegas' penchant for bright lights, amusements and fun, it provides the perfect setting for the NHRA's 300-mph, nitro-burning machines to unleash their excitement.
Teams in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock will once again battle at one of the nation's state-of-the-art dragstrips for race victories and critical world championship points. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) were last year's winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including three hours of live finals coverage starting at 6 p.m. (ET) on Sunday.
Antron Brown's run to a second straight world championship in Top Fuel took shape in Las Vegas last year, as the three-time world champ won the first of seven races by knocking off Troy Buff in the final round in his Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster. In 2017, Brown is trying to track down Don Schumacher Racing teammate Leah Pritchett, who has the early-season points lead in her Papa John's Pizza dragster with victories at each of the first two races. Other top challengers in the class include Phoenix runner-up Brittany Force, Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta, Steve Torrence and rookie Troy Coughlin Jr.
Alexis DeJoria's Funny Car win at the race a year ago was her second victory at the event in three years, and she'll look to keep that hot streak going in her Tequila Patron Toyota Camry. To do that, she'll have to contend with red-hot points leader Matt Hagan, who has come out quickly in 2017, winning the first two races. His win in Phoenix came against teammate and defending world champion Ron Capps, a five-time Vegas winner. The list of Funny Car standouts also includes 16-time world champion John Force, Courtney Force, a finalist at the first race of the season, Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman, class newcomer J.R. Todd and Del Worsham.
Jason Line's dominant start to last season in Pro Stock included a victory at the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro, and his year ended with a world championship. It's been another strong start for Line and longtime teammate Greg Anderson, as both have won to open 2017. Trying to end their impressive early-season start is a host talented drivers like Jeg Coughlin Jr., Erica Enders, Drew Skillman, Vincent Nobile, Bo Butner and rookie Tanner Gray.
The event also serves as the backdrop for the highly-anticipated K&N Horsepower Challenge for eight of the best Pro Stock drivers. Bragging rights and a hefty $50,000 paycheck is on the line in the specialty race that takes place on Saturday. Anderson is the defending K&N Horsepower Challenge winner.
The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, thrilling Top Fuel Harley motorcycle racing and jet dragsters.
Along with the exciting on-track action, the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals will honor first responders with NHRA's "Salute to First Responders" celebration.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they're granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA's popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:00 and 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 31 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 1, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 2.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
DENSO SPARK PLUGS NHRA NATIONALS
WHAT?: 18th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, the fourth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock - earn points leading to 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The race also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series.
WHERE?: The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas. Track is located approximately 15 miles north of downtown Las Vegas off Interstate 15.
WHEN?: Friday through Sunday, March 31-April 2
FRIDAY, March 31
LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2 and 4:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, April 1
LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:40 and 4:05 p.m.
K&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE at 1:30, 4 and 5 p.m.
SUNDAY, April 2
Pre-race ceremonies, 11:15 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at noon
TELEVISION: SUNDAY, April 2, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 6 p.m. (ET)
WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Alexis DeJoria, Funny Car; Jason Line, Pro Stock; Anderson, K&N Horsepower Challenge.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 6, FC: Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Antron Brown, 3, TF: Robert Hight, 3, FC; Greg Anderson, 3, PS; Jeg Coughlin, 3, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 2, TF; John Force, 2, FC; Cruz Pedregon, 2, FC; Mike Edwards, 2, PS; Erica Enders, 2, PS; Allen Johnson, 2, PS.
MOST K&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE VICTORIES: Greg Anderson, 5; Kurt Johnson, 4; Jeg Coughlin, 3; Bob Glidden, 3; Warren Johnson, 3; Larry Morgan, 3; Bruce Allen, 2; Erica Enders, 2; Allen Johnson, 2; Jim Yates, 2
Top Fuel - 3.689 sec. by Steve Torrence, Oct. '16 and 332.67 mph by Shawn Langdon, Oct. '15.
Funny Car - 3.871 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. '16 and 331.94 mph by John Force, Oct. '16.
Pro Stock - 6.559 sec. and 210.28 mph by Erica Enders, Oct. '15.
Top Fuel - 3.658 sec. by Leah Pritchett, Feb. '17, Phoenix; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. '15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car - 3.822 by Matt Hagan, Aug. '16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May '16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock - 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March '15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May '14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets, call (800) 644-4444. Tickets also available online at www.lvms.com/tickets.